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Friday, January 17, 2014

Runners Trek To The Fast Track

Alberto Salazar, legendary marathoner and coach of record-breaking teen runners Galen Rupp and Mary Cain, calls BU's indoor track "illegally fast." (Bill Frakes /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Alberto Salazar, legendary marathoner and coach of record-breaking runners Galen Rupp and Mary Cain, calls BU’s indoor track “illegally fast.” (Bill Frakes/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

“I think it’s an illegally fast track,” said Alberto Salazar with a twinkle in his eye. The legendary marathoner, who is now a coach, was standing on the infield inside the indoor track at Boston University last night. He had just seen his star pupil, Galen Rupp break the American indoor record in the 5,000-meters. Rupp ran 13:01:26, breaking the old mark by more than 5 seconds.

One of his other athletes, 17-year-old Mary Cain, missed an American record in the 1,000-meter race, but she set a world record for juniors with her time of 2:39:25

In track and field circles, this layout is known as the “launching pad,” and Rupp will be in the next few weeks to chase two more indoor records, in the mile and the two-mile. The crowd went nuts as he broke the 5K record last night and you can be sure the place will be jammed and rocking as he makes those other two record attempts. I was there last January when Rupp just missed the mile record and the cheering was deafening.

“If you’re going to go for records,” said Salazar, “this is the place to go.”

Reporter

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW. Runners are always chasing fast times, trying to set records, and it turns out one of their places to do that is just down the street from us. Who knew? It's the indoor track at Boston University. It even has a nickname. They call it the Launching Pad, though you'd never know it when I run on it.

And last night, it launched a couple of runners to unprecedented heights. HERE AND NOW's Alex Ashlock was there and has this report.

(APPLAUSE)

ALEX ASHLOCK, BYLINE: The fans cheered Oregon's Galen Rupp like he was a rock star as he finished the fastest 5,000-meter race ever run by an American on an indoor track. Last January, before another adoring crowd, he had just missed the U.S. record in the indoor mile. So last night he was thrilled to be back.

GALEN RUPP: Yeah, I mean, I've said this before, but this is the fastest indoor track I think in the world, you know, just the bounce that you get off of it, you know, just the way the turns are. You know, they're not too steep. And the crowd obviously is unbelievable. You know, they always show up, and they really spur you on, you know, when you're starting to hurt. So this is my favorite place to run indoors by far.

ASHLOCK: One of Rupp's teammates is a 17-year-old high school senior named Mary Cain. She's already turned pro, and last night she ran the 1,000-meter race faster than any high school girl ever has. That made it a great night for the man who coaches the two runners, the legendary marathoner Alberto Salazar.

ALBERTO SALAZAR: It is the fastest track, I think, in the world. I just tell them about the bounce on it, and, you know, I tell people it's like what makes a Stradivarius a Stradivarius?. I don't know. It just supposedly is the best violin, and somehow the woodwork on this track and how they put it, it's just this work of art that creates especially fast times in the middle distance.

ASHLOCK: Robin Johnson directs the track and field program at Boston University. She agrees with Salazar - it's the wood.

ROBIN JOHNSON: Well, the track is just fast. I think we have a unique mix of the surface that Vina Sports(ph) put down, and then wood underneath it. Most other tracks have metal or aluminum underneath, and the - you know, when it gives back, it's a natural structure and a natural surface, and it just gives back a nice amount. And the good thing about it is our athletes don't get injured, either, because, you know, it's a natural surface.

ASHLOCK: And clearly it's also a launching pad for fast times. Galen Rupp will be chasing two more records here in the coming weeks, in the mile and the two mile. And after last night, he's certainly off to a great start. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Alex Ashlock in Boston.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know about you, but I don't know how much more I can take. But whatever you've got left, give it up for Galen on his victory lap. That was one heck of a show. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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